Ballard’s Lucky Envelope Brewing loves collaboration.

That’s why Head Brewer Barry Chan and Director of Operations Raymond Kwan recently celebrated the second of their beers picked up by Fremont-based PicoBrew. The brewery’s Helles Lager will now be available for home production thanks to the hometown connection.

The PicoBrew is an “automated craft beer brewing appliance,” which more or less brews beer for you by simply pressing a button. Lucky Envelope got on board with the company early, despite some initial misgivings.

“I met Annie Johnson [who now works for PicoBrew] in 2009 or 2010 through the Seattle Home Brew Club,” Chan said. “Initially she was skeptical, but they contacted her and she was convinced. They brought her on as an employee and she showed it to me. I was also skeptical, but it works out really nice.”

Lucky Envelope had previously partnered with PicoBrew to make the ENIAC Mosaic IPA. PicoBrew creates pre-packaged brewing recipes that are loaded into the appliance. In about two hours, the machine makes five liters of beer. After one week of fermenting, the beer is ready to drink.

These “PicoPak” kits are biodegradable packs that come loaded with all the hops and grains needed to brew fresh beer. According to the company’s website “Just pop the pack into the machine – the PicoPak is automatically recognized and a brewing cycle will start.

The co-founders of Lucky Envelope said that the machine does a decent job at replicating their beer.

“No beer is going to be 100 percent like the brewery makes it, but it’s really capturing the essence of the beer,” Kwan said. “It’s like 95 percent there.”

For the Helles Lager debut, Lucky Envelope threw a party at the brewery on Aug. 11. One fan walked away with a PicoBrew appliance, and brewery swag and beer were also part of giveaways.

“A lot of the Pico folks showed up,” Chan said. “We are working with them to release our Beardless Brewer Red.”

Lucky Envelope opened its doors in 2015, and have recently begun to rebrand itself as a place which makes “culturally inspired beers.” Chan and Kwan are both Asian, and use their background to make some beers inspired by their childhood and culture.

“We like looking at the historic context of beer and the communities which have brewed it,” Kwan said. “We got the recipe for a 5,000 year old Chinese beer they found at a dig site in Xi’an province. We looked at the research paper on the fermentation vessels they found underground.”

Chan said an early word-of-mouth review decried Lucky Envelope for making “weird Asian beers.” He focuses largely on German-style lagers, so this was a surprise to him. Since then, he and Kwan have embraced their heritage, an outlier in Washington’s overwhelmingly white brewing industry.  

“There are two major Chinese holidays where the family would all get together,” Kwan said. “Chinese New Year - which we had a special beer release for – and the Autumn Moon Festival. We are working on a beer brewed with lotus paste for that one.”

Chan and Kwan are also working on barrel-aging beers.

Lucky Envelope is far from the only brewery in Seattle with a beer represented by PicoBrew. Fremont, Pike, Ravenna, Stoup, Bad Jimmy’s, Elysian, Flying Bike, Flying Lion, Olympic Range, Populuxe, Rooftop and even defunct Spinnaker Bay are all brewing companies with at least one beer available in PicoPak.